On Wednesday, the wife of fugitive Mehul Choksi alleged that the law enforcement authorities in India did not charge her husband and that he did not have any business dealings with absconding fraudster Nirav Modi. Priti Choksi made the allegations during an exclusive interview with Rahul Kanwal of India Today.
She claimed, “I fail to understand why my husband’s name was included in the FIR. In the chargesheet, my husband is not charged with anything because my husband was not involved with Nirav Modi My husband had no business with Nirav Modi. In the chargesheet, if you read, there is no mention of my husband.”
What is the truth?
On February 13, 2018, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Mehul Choksi and his entities such as Gill India and Gitanjali Gems. The case was lodged following a complaint by the Punjab National Bank (PNB). The fugitive businessman was charged with fraud of ₹4,886 crores in the issuance of 143 Letters of Undertaking (LoU) and 224 foreign letters of credit (FLC) between 2017-2018.
After the FIR was registered, the central agency had raided 17 entities of the Gitanjali Group at 26 locations in 6 cities on February 17 that year. It must be mentioned that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had also filed a case against Mehul Choksi under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The businessman was summoned by CBI and ED on several occasions but he fled the country and did not appear before the investigative authorities.
Again on May 16, 2018, the CBI filed its first charge sheet in a Mumbai court. It had named Mehul CHoksi and 17 others for cheating, criminal conspiracy, and relevant provisions of PMLA. The central agency emphasised that the Punjab National bank suffered a ₹4,886 crore loss due to fraudulently issued 143 LoUs and 224 FLCs to the companies run by Mehul Choksi. Later, the ED had also filed a chargesheet and supplementary chargesheets. Both the agencies found the total defrauded amount by the fugitive businessman to be ₹6,097.33 crores.
Choksi’s firms such as Gill India Limited, Gitanjali Gems and Nakshatra Brands Limited were also involved in money laundering and siphoning off funds. Interestingly, the fugitive’s wife Priti Choksi was the nominee of most of the firms run by him. The ED found that Mehul Choksi along with PNB officials were involved in manipulating the SWIFT system of the bank, wherein small transactions were reflected in the system while large sums were being withdrawn.
The Enforcement Directorate had also attached ₹2600 crore worth of Choksi’s properties. Owing to his failure in appearing before the investigative authorities, a Red Corner notice was issued against the fugitive in December 2018.
Mehul Choksi arrested in Dominica
Dominican authorities had arrested Choksi for entering the country “illegally” from Antigua and Barbuda, where he has been living since January 2018. The ‘missing’ ex-diamantaire was spotted in Dominica’s capital city of Roseau at the Canefield beach where he was disposing of some documents at sea. Police got suspicious and approached him. When he was asked about his purpose to visit Dominica, he refused to answer.
After Choksi was arrested in Dominica, it was speculated that he will be extradited to India. However, the hopes of repatriating PNB Bank scam accused Mehul Choksi to India was soon dashed as Dominica said that they will send him back to Antigua, not India. Earlier, pictures of fugitive Mehul Choksi, held behind bars in Dominica, had surfaced on social media. The photographs were shared by Antigua News Room.